Nameless Coalition, partners celebrate new day center for the homeless
Wednesday marked the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless beginning a project to remodel a building formerly used by Sanford Health to provide mental health services. The building in the future will be a day center where homeless individuals can access services.
BEMIDJI -- Ground was broken in Bemidji Wednesday morning as work begins on a new homeless day center.
But with the building already constructed, the groundbreaking was a bit different.
Instead of the traditional format, Nameless Coalition for the Homeless members and their partners shoveled dirt for new trees to be planted. The symbol of renewal with the trees was appropriate as the coalition begins a project to remodel the building at 722 15th St. NW.
Built in the 1970s, the 11,000 square-foot facility was most recently the home of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota's mental health services. The building had Sanford's name attached since the provider bought the Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center at a cost of $650,000 in fall 2017.
However, Sanford recently relocated its mental health services to its main campus area in northern Bemidji. Meanwhile, the coalition had been looking for a place to house a new day center for the area's homeless population.
With the building now vacant, Sanford donated the facility to the coalition for its needs. After nearly 10 months of effort, the coalition officially accepted the building.
"We're here to celebrate the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people," said Reed Olson, executive director of the coalition. "We're about to open a space that will provide warmth and community to people on Bemidji's coldest days."
"It's an honor to partner on this very special project," said Susan Jarvis, president and CEO of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota. "I'm sure everyone remembers that this building was, for many years, used to offer behavioral health care services.
"Through local government partnerships and community organizations, we've been able to relocate," said Jarvis. "So, that left a building here that we didn't have use for. We're so excited to donate this building so that it can continue its legacy to benefit our community's most vulnerable."
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The next step for the coalition is remodeling the building. To do so, the organization is utilizing a $600,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
"It's a lot of basic infrastructural upgrades," Olson said. "The bulk of the money is going to cover a new roof, wheelchair lift or elevator, add a sprinkler system, fix the parking lot and put in new carpet. We'll also be making ADA adjustments for the bathrooms."
Once the remodeling work is finished, the building's many office spaces will be available for people to use to access services.
"We're going to offer everyone their own office in the building," Olson said. "Not that they'd be here 40 hours a week, but they can develop a regular schedule, and we can help the people we serve access the services they need and help the service agencies find the people.
"Hopefully, it will shorten the amount of time people are on the streets and give them a more dignified setting," said Olson. "We're also going to allow people to have a mailing address here, which is huge for someone on the streets."
Additionally, the facility will have space where people can keep their vital documents, as well as lockers for their items.
This will be the second facility managed by the coalition, with the first being the Wolfe. Opened in February 2016, the Wolfe is an overnight winter shelter for the homeless in downtown Bemidji , the former location of the Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church.
"It's hard to articulate what a blessing it is to serve our people," Olson said. "Homelessness at the scale we see today is a policy choice. It's a result of bad public policy and we need to correct it. Many of the people we serve have jobs, severe medical conditions and some criminal histories. in a lot of ways, they're just like us. They have challenges and successes."